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ILO sees 'positive trend' in garment industry

ILO sees 'positive trend' in garment industry

Cambodia's garment factories are guilty of a wide range of abuses but have overall

demonstrated "a positive trend" on labor rights, according to the International

Labour Organisation's latest quarterly report on working conditions.

The Fourth Synthesis Report on the Working Conditions Situation in Cambodia's Garment

Sector reported evidence of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, forced overtime,

unpaid work and anti-union discrimination in some factories. On the plus side it

found no evidence of child labor or forced labor.

The team visited 65 factories employing almost 76,000 workers, around 90 percent

of whom are women. The ILO has monitored the country's garment factories for the

past year - a condition of factories being allowed to export clothes to the US is

that the country upholds certain minimum working conditions.

Ray Chew, a board member of the Garment Manufacturers' Association of Cambodia, declined

to comment ahead of the report's official release in early October.

The report noted there were some illegal strikes, but said strike action was confined

to a minority of factories. Of the 65 factories monitored, there had been no industrial

action at 48 of them in the past year. Strikes in the others were spurred by issues

such as the dismissal of a shop steward, the firing of those workers who complained,

and late payment of wages.

The ILO noted that some improvements had been made in the time between the issuing

of draft recommendations and discussions between the ILO and management at the factories.

"[These changes are] certainly encouraging and provide a foundation for optimism

that improvements will continue to be made before the next report," it stated.

The non-payment of correct wages remained one of the biggest problems, with "indications

that the workers did not receive the wages they were entitled to" in 57 factories.

Unfair deductions for production mistakes, replacement of tools, or breaching company

rules was a common problem. Workers complained of forced overtime in 42 factories.

Union activity was tolerated in most factories, whose workers reported no discrimination

against unions. However in 12 factories union leaders were dismissed, demoted or

otherwise penalized for union activity. In one factory a union leader was prevented

from undertaking his union duties then attacked by unknown assailants outside his

house.

Among the other problems were that workers were hampered from exercising their right

to organize freely in 16 factories. Workers at one factory were fired for trying

to set up a union branch; those at another eight said they were afraid even to try.

On the issue of sick pay and maternity leave the report found mixed results: sick

leave was not paid in more than half the factories, despite that being illegal.

Maternity leave was provided in 19 factories, with three factories actually exceeding

the requirements of the law. However the team heard complaints in one factory that

some pregnant workers were forced to resign.

Under the law factories with more than 100 female employees are required to establish

a nursing room and day care center, but 56 factories were found to provide neither.

The garment industry is the country's largest industrial employer with more than

200,000 workers, mostly young women.

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